The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona has a litany of awesome exhibits. However, you are a busy person! And there’s way too much to see in this museum already with over 6800 different instruments on display! (But that’s okay; that’s why I built my my heavily time-oriented Musical Instrument Museum tips article to help you better prepare for a visit. Read it after this one. Seriously.) With a museum so jam-packed with incredible artifacts, how do you decide what to see? In my humble opinion, there are seven must-see Musical Instrument Museum exhibits that you cannot miss. This brief overview will walk you through those exhibits in alphabetical order!
In the above photo, you’ll see the yellow Apollonia at the far end of the room. The Mechanical Music Exhibit features the Grecian-inspired Apollonia–an orchestrion from the early 1900s made in Antwerp, Belgium. Every single day, the museum hosts a small program describing the machine and playing 1-2 songs. Make sure you check with Guest Services for the day’s two showtimes. (If you’re lucky and attending an event that evening, they may play the machine a third time!) Find this feature on the ground level between the Artist Gallery and the Experience Gallery.
Speaking of Experience Gallery, don’t miss it! A popular exhibit for kids, this gallery houses playable instruments similar to some on display throughout the museum. In the above picture, note the instruments in the background. It’s a playable gamelan–an Indonesian ensemble of primarily percussive instruments! Think the children currently playing are synced? Nah. You won’t be synced to anyone else’s rhythm either, but you won’t care. Banging on exotic instruments is fun! Find the Experience Gallery on the ground level next to the Mechanical Music Gallery.
And speaking of gamelan, a full exhibit can be found in the Southeast Asia exhibit area next to the entrance to the Latin America exhibit! Don’t miss this humongous display. (And, really, if you’re strolling through the Southeast Asia area, you CAN’T miss it!)
Phoenix Art Sculpture
Musical Instrument Museum exhibits aren’t restricted to being only instruments. In fact, some are merely inspired by music! Sitting in the Musical Instrument Museum’s Main Courtyard lies a slowly rotating sculpture. Its movement is so discreet that you might miss the fact that it’s moving. However, you now know the secret! Entitled “Phoenix” like the city, this interpretation of the fiery bird Phoenix combined with guitar-like instrumental features is an intriguing and appropriately local touch to the museum that the standard visitor may miss. Don’t miss it…and the chance to line up the rotation for your perfect Instagram photo!
Not to be outdone, the area immediately in front of the Target Gallery where the museum hosts special exhibitions has a free-play piano. Are you a professional or amateur pianist? That doesn’t matter. Hang around the piano long enough, and you’ll be treated to an impromptu performance by a patron like yourself! Better yet, treat us if you’re a pro!
Musical Instrument Museum exhibits have a knack for impressing, and I was shocked to see a Recycled Orchestra exhibit of some of the rarest instruments in the world. Made in Cateura, Paraguay, an actual garbage dump outside of capital city Asunción, Paraguay, the instruments are improvised from garbage for local children to learn music. The orchestra they’ve built is now world-renown due to the incredible intricacies behind the instruments and the ingenuity they’ve taken to develop. Find the Recycled Orchestra near the front entrance of the Latin America exhibit.
Target Gallery / Special Exhibitions
The Target Gallery (a name surely derived from the Musical Instrument Museum’s ties to Target Corporation) hosts special exhibits. When I visited, the museum featured a Chinese exhibit with instruments and artifacts dating from hundreds of years ago. (Watch my video to see the female sculptures from 1400 years ago!) What exhibition will the museum have when you visit? No matter the topic, it’s sure to be awe-inspiring. Find the Target Gallery next to the Orientation Gallery near Guest Services and the aforementioned free-play piano.
Musical Instrument Museum Exhibits
I’ve picked out just seven major highlights. You’re sure to find others at the MIM merely by wandering throughout the museum! (I suppose that’s similar in nature to the Desert Botanical Garden which was an overall Phoenix, Arizona highlight. Have you visited the museum? What are some of your must-see exhibitions? Share in the comments below! Until next time, toodles!